This month's Student Spotlight, PPH students, Lauren Kehoe, Julie Thomas, and Alyssa Eilers were interviewed to share their experience as Independent Living Donor Advocates, an internship that was created by PPH faculty Dr. Andrew Flescher to give students personal exposure to living donors. Learn more about Dr. Flescher’s role in United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), click here.

Alyssa Eilers

Alyssa Eilers, MPH, Health Analytics

Class of 2022

 

How did you find out about being an Independent Living Donor Advocate?

I found out about being in Independent Living Donor Advocate during my first semester in the MPH program in Dr. Flescher’s HPH 500 Contemporary Issues in Public Health course.

Why did you take advantage of this opportunity?

I chose to take advantage of this opportunity because it seemed like a unique experience that I had never even considered before. All of my past experiences in undergrad were higher education related, and I felt this was a perfect start to finally get that hands-on public health/healthcare field related experience. I was nervous about stepping into this role as it is something that was so new to me, but I am so lucky to be able to serve in this position and can’t wait to keep learning more about the world of living donation

How does this relate to public health? 

This position relates to public health since we are directly working with patients and advocating for them, in addition to a multidisciplinary team of health professionals, in order to achieve a successful donation. This combined effort from various healthcare players is how, I feel, it truly relates to public health. Public health is everywhere! It takes a team and being a part of this team allows us to learn so much about not only being an ILDA, but also about all the other roles responsible for living organ donation

What is it about being a living donor advocate that interests you?

Being an ILDA interests me because I love hearing people’s stories and reasons for why they want to donate. Whether it’s someone donating to a parent, or a long-time friend, or even a neighbor, I enjoy being the person that they can share their thoughts and feelings with as well as being able to walk them through the steps of this process

What has been the most rewarding experience thus far?

The most rewarding experience has been the positive feedback at the end of my calls with the living donors. Though sometimes they simply end the call with a thank you, other times you can really feel how much they appreciated the call and can tell that they feel better knowing they have someone “looking out for them”. It’s a heartwarming feeling, and one that takes so much little time out of the day, yet it can have such a big impact on these individuals lives.

Julie Thomas

Julie Thomas, MPH, Health Policy and Management 

Class of 2022

How did you find out about being an independent living donor advocate?

I found out about being an IDLA in my HPH 500 class with Dr. Flescher, where he brought up the position and gave all his students the opportunity to reach out to him if interested. After learning more about the role from my mentor Gabriella who was working as an independent living donor advocate at the time, I decided that it was something I wanted to get involved with.

Why did you take advantage of this opportunity?

I am still not entirely sure on my future career path, so I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about the field of public health while also gaining valuable skills and work experience that will benefit me in the future.

How does this relate to public health? 

Chronic kidney disease is becoming a significant public health problem. There are thousands of people waiting for a kidney transplant in our country alone, and a deadly shortage of donor organs. As an IDLA, I am directly involved with the screening process of potential kidney donors. I have the opportunity to work separate from the transplant team to contribute to the care and support of the potential living donors by advocating for the protection of their rights and addressing their questions and concerns about the process.

What is it about being a living donor advocate that interests you?

The screening process is vital to the potential donation because there is so much to consider before moving on in the process for both the donor and recipient such as any potential health concerns, eligibility criteria, and motives. Being directly involved in this process is rewarding as I know I am contributing to the potential fulfillment of a living donation. I also never had much prior knowledge about living donations so it is interesting to learn more about transplants through real-world experience and exposure from being a living donor advocate. 

What has been the most rewarding experience thus far?

The most rewarding experience was sitting in on a screening with a potential donor who was looking to donate to someone much younger than him. It was amazing to see how determined and confident this individual was in his decision to give up a kidney. His willingness to save someone's life was inspiring and it felt good to know that my job is aiding in this process to potentially save other people's lives through a living kidney donation. 

Lauren

Lauren Kehoe, MPH, Health Analytics 

Class of 2022

How did you find out about being an independent living donor advocate?

I learned about being an ILDA in our Contemporary Issues in Public Health course with Dr. Flescher.

Why did you take advantage of this opportunity?

I decided to take advantage of this internship opportunity because I am an MPH/MAPP dual-degree student and was really interested in getting hands-on experience where I would be able to see the impact of different policies working together to help improve the care people receive. 

How does this relate to public health? 

This internship relates to public health in several ways. Most notably I think that being an ILDA helps promote health education, specifically in regard to the transplant and recovery processes, which is a major foundation of public health. 

What is it about being a living donor advocate that interests you?

One aspect of being an ILDA that really interests me is being able to be there for them throughout the whole transplant process, providing them with support and different resources to help them best understand the process.

What has been the most rewarding experience thus far?

The most rewarding experience I have had throughout this internship so far has definitely been being able to meet the potential living donors in person and seeing how eager they are to help others.